The following is courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry:
Former Grand Ole Opry announcer and General Manager Hal Durham passed away last week. Below is a dedication read during the Saturday night Opry on March 28:
This performance of the Grand Ole Opry is dedicated to Hal Durham, a 32-year veteran of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, who passed away last night at his home in Florida. Hal was a native of McMinnville, Tennessee and a high school classmate of Opry star Dottie West. Hal's association with the Opry began in 1964 when he joined WSM radio as an announcer. He was named WSM program director seven years later, and in 1974 he became the Opry's manager. He retired in 1996 as President of the Grand Ole Opry Group. Like almost everyone who works here at the Opry, this show became a very important part of Hal's life, and Hal also made an indelible mark on the Opry. Under his leadership, an array of talented artists joined the Opry family as official members, among them: Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, Lorrie Morgan, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Vince Gill. Hal was much loved by the Opry's members and staff, and he took his role at the helm of this show very seriously. "The Opry is the ultimate," Hal once said. "It is synonymous with being at the top of the ladder, and we can't have off weeks. Each week has to be great. People plan their visit around the Opry knowing they are going to see the greatest show in country music..." And so tonight, we salute our friend Hal Durham and thank him for his years of efforts in making the Opry the ultimate....the top of the ladder... the greatest show in country music.
A very nice tribute at the start of the show. I did not listen to the Saturday night Opry this past week so I missed this. I will listen to the replay on Sirius this coming week and catch it. Like I stated in an earlier post, Hal Durham was the last of the Opry General Managers who came up through the ranks of WSM, and he was the last of the Opry managers to have had an official position with the radio station. He guided the Opry through a very difficult time, when many of the old time members started to reach retirement age and the Opry became less important to many of the younger stars of country music. While we wished he had not, he was wise in lowering the membership requirements to attract many of the younger artists. As those younger artists matured and became more established, many of them have evolved into loyal members of the Opry, such as Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, The Whites, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart. And while Garth Brooks does not appear very much, he has always spoken very highly of the Opry and has answered every call the Opry has made. Hal set the standard that Bob Whittaker and, later, Pete Fisher have had to follow. Also, we must remember that Hal and Bob Whittaker were the last of the Opry managers who did not fall under the heavy pressure from Gaylord to make sure that the Opry was a profitable enterprise for Gaylord. When all is said and done, Hal Durham was a fine manager for the Opry and those like him do not come around often enough.